EUFAULA, Ala. – With the heaviest stringer the tournament had produced yet, Koby Kreiger wrote his name in the record books Saturday when he became the only angler with four Stren Series victories to his name. And to make it all even sweeter, the win came at the Stren Series Southeast Division event on Lake Eufaula, a body of water that has handed Kreiger two wins and five other top-10 finishes since 2001.
All of that Eufaula success has come in the Stren Series, and in fact, Kreiger has made the top 10 here every year since 2001 except for 2003, a year Kreiger did not fish the Southeast Division. For the win today, he added another $70,500 in winnings, bonuses and prizes to his ever-expanding tournament bottom line.
To win, Kreiger had to move up the leaderboard from sixth place, where he sat with a three-day total of 41 pounds, 3 pounds. He set a goal heading into today’s competition that he wanted to catch 20 pounds, and he came pretty darn close, hauling in 19 pounds, 3 ounces to win the tournament over local hotshot and defending champion Ryan Ingram by 2 pounds, 4 ounces.
Kreiger’s eyes welled up a bit when he found out he’d reached the four-victory milestone, perhaps because when the tournament started, he didn’t necessarily believe winning was in the cards this week.
“I didn’t have much going when this thing got started,” Kreiger said. Indeed, before the day-one launch, he remarked, “Usually I’m looking forward to going fishing on Lake Eufaula. This morning, I am not looking forward to going fishing on Lake Eufaula.”
That day, Kreiger weighed in 14 pounds, 7 ounces to end the day in 17th place. He improved his position on day two despite a falling weight, moving up to sixth place with another 13 pounds, 4 ounces. He nearly matched that on day three, catching another limit that weighed 13 pounds, 5 ounces, before blowing away the field today with the 19-pound, 3-ounce catch that brought his four-day winning total to 60 pounds, 3 ounces.
What changed Kreiger’s day-one perception was a gradual weather change that brought early-morning day-four temperatures that were 20 degrees warmer than they were on day one. The water stabilized as well, moving the fish back up to the banks and turning the fishing on for almost everyone.
“I just got a couple key bites today,” Kreiger said. “The weather got right, and the water got right. I hadn’t been doing anything special. I fished closed to the boat ramp, and I knew I needed to do something different to win. The weather played right into my hands.”
Old buddy Powers helps, even in absentia
Kreiger competes in three FLW Outdoors bass-tournament trails, including the two most prestigious circuits, the Wal-Mart FLW Tour and the Wal-Mart FLW Series. Along those trails, Kreiger is well-known for pairing with his good friend and fellow pro Craig Powers, meaning the two of them share fishing information as well as subsequent tournament winnings. Though Powers may not have competed in this week’s Stren event, he did help his friend collect another victory by hand-making the bait that got him the bass.
“I caught them the first three days in the riprap on a homemade plug made by Craig Powers,” Kreiger said. “I caught four there this morning, and then decided I needed more, so I went shallow. I used an 8-inch Zoom lizard and a 4-inch Gambler Bacon Rind, and those two baits took me over the top.”
Of his four Stren Series victories, this is his second on Eufaula, and he admitted to putting a lot of pressure on himself to bring home another trophy on the lake his name has become synonymous with despite not having a local advantage.
“I wanted to win another tournament on Eufaula, so I had a lot of pressure on myself to make the top 10,” he said. “I’m glad it’s over. If I can ever win an FLW Tour or FLW Series event, it would be better. That’s the next goal.”
Defending champ Ingram comes close
Hailing from nearby Phenix City, Ala., Ingram possesses unlimited local knowledge of the fishery, and all 10 FLW Outdoors events that he has ever fished have been on Lake Eufaula. Four of them resulted in top-10 finishes; one of those is a win, at this very event one year ago.
What kept Ingram from a repeat victory is the fact that he considers himself an offshore fisherman, and conditions today forced him to fish shallow. That said, he performed admirably, despite declarations in previous days that his bite was going to disappear. He caught a limit today weighing 13 pounds, 15 ounces to bring his four-day total to 57 pounds, 15 ounces and earn $9,832.
“About 12 o’clock, I realized everything in the lake was on the beds, so I went shallow,” he said. “It was tough. I wanted to win. I knew when I had to go shallow, I was going to be beat.”
Ingram reported catching his bass on a 1-ounce Ledge Buster spinnerbait the first three days, and today he caught them on a 3/8-ounce jig and a creature bait. But after a couple of anglers brought in admirable stringers by junk-fishing, Ingram said he thought it might be time for a lesson.
“I guess I need to figure out how to junk-fish,” he said. “I’m going to get somebody to give me a course.”
Beaver climbs to third with one of day’s best catches
With a day-four limit weighing 17 pounds, 15 ounces, Rodger Beaver of Dawson, Ga., brought his four-day total to 57 pounds, 14 ounces to move from eighth place to third and collect $8,849. He might just be the one to give Ingram that junk-fishing course.
“I’ve been kind of junk-fishing all week, some shallow, some deep,” Beaver said. “The crowd was gone today and the water stabilized, and I caught them all sight-fishing today.”
Beaver said his go-to bait the first few days was a 1-ounce Ledge Buster spinnerbait in about 12 to 14 feet of water, though he says he jumped back and forth between that and shallower depths. He also caught a few on a 1/2-ounce Strike Zone Perfect Jig with a Zoom Chunk.
“It just worked out today,” he said. “I went to the bank and started looking. I saw some fish cruising, and I knew it would be OK.”
Beaver too has considerable experience on Lake Eufaula, and what pushed him offshore the first few days was boat traffic and high water in his favorite areas. When that changed, Beaver adjusted.
“The last two days I started fishing shallower and shallower,” he said. “I’ve been fishing this lake a long time. I struggled the first two days, and once I saw them coming up today, I thought I would need 20 pounds or so.”
He didn’t quite hit the 20-pound mark, but he did catch his personal best stringer of the tournament today by more than 4 pounds over his second-best catch.
Beaver is an FLW Outdoors veteran with 17 top-10 finishes to his credit, including six on Lake Eufaula.
Auten falls to fourth
Yesterday’s No. 2 Todd Auten of Lake Wylie, S.C., struggled today and caught only four, and much to his dismay, only three of them were in the bag when he approached the scale. That led to a frantic search by tournament officials in the bump tubs, and when that proved unfruitful, Auten returned to his boat, where he found the elusive fourth fish still swimming in the muddy water of his livewell.
Those four fish weighing 12 pounds, 4 ounces brought his four-day total to 56 pounds, 6 ounces and earned him $7,866. He said he had the fifth one on several times, but it was not to be.
“The fishing got a lot tougher for me today,” Auten said. “I didn’t have a fish at 12 o’clock. I’d been fishing docks, and I had to adapt and go shallower. I caught those four and ran out of time.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros on Lake Eufaula:
6th: Jesse Draime, Long Beach, Miss., 18 bass, 53-7
7th: Chad Prough, Chipley, Fla., 17 bass, 53-5
8th: Ken Ellis, Bowman, S.C., 20 bass, 53-0
9th: Joseph Kremer, Osteen, Fla., 15 bass, 43-9
10th: Alex Ormand, Bessemer City, N.C., 15 bass, 40-10
The next Stren Series event is a Central Division contest at Lake Amistad near Del Rio, Texas, March 21-24.
The next Southeast Division tournament is the fourth and last event of the season. It will be held at the Santee Cooper lakes near Manning, S.C., April 11-14.